A defense attorney told jurors today that "it's been a long and demanding ride" for a man charged with murder for the stabbing death of University of California at Berkeley senior Christopher Wootton near campus two years ago today.
In her closing argument in the trial of 22-year-old Andrew Hoeft-Edenfield, his attorney, Yolanda Huang, said she gets strength from him because of "what he's gone through and endured" since being arrested for the death of Wootton in the parking lot of a sorority house in the 2400 block of Warring Street at about 2:45 a.m. May 3, 2008.
Pointing at Hoeft-Edenfield, Huang said he "maintains a faith that justice will be done" yet "sits there so powerless."
Prosecutor Connie Campbell immediately objected to Huang's comments, prompting Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Horner to summon both attorneys in the lengthy and contentious trial to his chambers for a five-minute discussion away from jurors and the spectators who packed his courtroom.
When Huang resumed her closing argument, she said, "Mr. Hoeft-Edenfield is calm and composed and remains positive in the hopes of justice."
Huang said Hoeft-Edenfield should be found not guilty of murder charges for Wootton's death because "there's no evidence on when and how it happened" and "there's no evidence on how the stabbing took place."
But Campbell said, "The evidence is very clear that the defendant (Hoeft-Edenfield) killed Christopher Wootton in cold blood."
Campbell said the stabbing was "a very cold-blooded killing and the evidence overwhelmingly supports a verdict of murder."
Wootton, 21, who was from Bellflower in Southern California, was only weeks away from graduating with honors in nuclear engineering when he was killed. He planned to continue studying nuclear engineering in graduate school at UC Berkeley, according to a statement issued by Chancellor Robert Birgeneau after the stabbing. Campbell said Wootton was "a thoughtful, intelligent man with great leadership skills and discipline and had a bright future."
Campbell alleged that Hoeft-Edenfield presented himself as "a thug" and had anger management problems that prevented him from walking away from a drunken shouting match that developed when Hoeft-Edenfield and a group of his friends encountered Wootton and a group of his friends on a street near campus.
Huang told jurors in her opening statement on March 16 that Hoeft-Edenfield, who worked at Jamba Juice in Berkeley and attended Berkeley City College, "doesn't have a malicious bone in his body" and acted in self-defense after he was "outnumbered, surrounded, kicked and stomped" by Wootton and a large group of Wootton's friends. But Campbell said today that testimony by Hoeft-Edenfield's former teachers and others provided "overwhelming evidence that he's a violent, explosive person with anger management problems his whole life."
Campbell said Hoeft-Edenfield's anger management issues were evident in his "unwillingness to walk away from a verbal argument and in his decision to reach into his pocket and pull out a knife" in the confrontation in which Wootton was fatally stabbed.
"You can't bring a deadly weapon to a fistfight and claim it was self-defense," Campbell said.
She said Hoeft-Edenfield "expressed his intent to kill" by threatening Wootton and his friends by asking them, "Who wants to be stabbed?" and "Who wants to fucking die?"
Campbell said Hoeft-Edenfield's actions after the stabbing also refute Huang's contention that he acted in self-defense.
The prosecutor said Hoeft-Edenfield threw his knife into some bushes, although it was recovered the next day, tried to wash his clothes immediately afterward and didn't call police to report that he had acted because he feared for his life.
Jurors will begin deliberating Hoeft-Edenfield's fate late Tuesday after Huang and Campbell finish their closing arguments.